Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday 31st Jan, 3.30pm, Zibo

So, as it turns out, the “little town” of Zibo where Keer grew up has a population of five million – that’s the equivalent of the number of cars on the streets of Beijing. And the number of people in Croatia.

We are currently at Keer’s grandma’s next door neighbour’s house, on our second tutoring session with the 14-year-old girl who lives here. We’ve been asked to help for a couple of hours every day with English and Maths. Keer’s in charge of the English bit since she can explain all in Chinese. I’ve been helping with trigonometry; it’s comforting to think that, although I am 5000 miles from home, Maths is still a language I can communicate in.

Last night was our first proper night out in China. The hair dresser that we met on Saturday – who cut and dyed my hair for 80RMB – took us to meet his friends at a club night in the centre of Zibo. First impression of Chinese clubbing – much like my first impressions of everything in China so far – mental! The music was exceptionally loud, the lights were dancing as much as the clubbers, and the strobes showed no sign of letting up at any point in the night.

The most bizarre bit of the night’s proceedings was the “light entertainment” – some singing to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface by a club circuit singer, a guy who made balloon animals (!) and spun bowls and kettles filled with boiling water on various poles (including a spatula) resting on his face, and a man who practised Kung Fu, and spent five minutes straining the air from his lungs into a 10-meter fireman’s hose to blow up – and subsequently burst – a rubber glove at the other end. Then it was time for some audience participation and, predictably, Keer dragged me onto the stage to take part in a “gameshow” contest involving transporting ping-pong balls from one end of the stage to the other, using only straws and the principles of suction. My designated partner and I placed second, and I walked away with a giant teddy! 

Having danced ourselves silly we made our way to one of the other floors of this gigantic entertainment complex (which also housed pool tables, video games, and God knows what else besides) and spent a happy few hours singing along to favourite karaoke tunes. The boys we were with treated us to many Chinese classics, the five of them at various stages of their vocal development.

I’ve been making a mental note of the Chinese “adages” we’ve been privy to; a couple of my favourites –
[upon noticing the goldfish at the hairdressers’] “Goldfish are a sign of prosperity!”
[upon entering aforementioned neighbour’s house] “Fat faces bring fortune!” The neighbours were rather excited to see a white face – “This is too good!”. Wondering round the streets of Zibo is what I imagine it might be like to be a Z-list celebrity – people stare as you walk past, trying to figure out if their eyes are deceiving them, and at the same time wondering if such interest should genuinely be warranted.

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